Portfolio building as a designer – why my portfolio is everything


I have recently been updating my portfolio. A difficult task to get to when freelance. Thankful for being busy with client work, but the longer time passes without updating it, the bigger the task when getting to it, which makes avoiding starting it easier. Not unlike going to the gym.

Around Xmas and New Year I began the job. Bit by bit it came together, old pieces updated, new pieces created. Forgotten jobs found that I both hadn’t appreciated properly at the time and had completely slipped my mind. I reached the tipping point between the daunting scale of the task to the the sheer joy of putting it together becoming a labour of love. It also brought me back to putting together my first portfolio as a young art college applicant.

Portfolio cases and trains

I am old enough to remember pre-digital art. Where a giant A1 folder was requisite. A giant black Winsor and Newton folder of art that was an extension of myself, my personality (to cover for my lack thereof), my baby. Lugged around from place to place, banging into people on trains and buses, getting odd looks as I carted round ‘my art’. No other possession was as important. It dominated every room with a sulky teenage attitude of ‘no I don’t want to be opened, but please ask to see my work, well okay if you insist’.

It went to a couple of job interviews and wasn’t even opened. How could they! Memorably at an art college interview, someone nonchalantly, dismissively flicked through it while eating an apple.

“Is my portfolio getting in the way of your lunch?” I wanted to say, but just thought it, loudly.

He made an enemy for life there, as if the leather trousers he had on weren’t bad enough.


The portfolio rules

The rules for a portfolio. Do you put in everything to show the full range of your skills and your work ethic or do you only put in the very best for the shock and awe effect. Might that minimalism backfire if it’s not what the viewer is looking for… “Is that it?”

I remember between 12 and 15 pieces were optimal. Ultimately people can’t be bothered with more. The very first piece  should be you very best. Your second best piece should go at the back. This is for people who flicked through the portfolio back to front. Smart huh.

I would add now from experience, that the end viewer is so variable it’s impossible to have the perfect portfolio. Anything you aren’t entirely happy with, remove it. And just like going to the gym, much better to work at it regularly, than to need to start all over again as you’ve left it so long.

Well if you insist, you can have a look at my portfolio here.

*nonchalantly looks away like it’s no biggie*